Twelve suspected pirates have been transferred to Mauritius for prosecution after being captured by the European Union Naval Force (EU Navfor) warship FS Surcouf, following an attack on a merchant vessel off Somalia.
The merchant vessel was attacked on January 5 whilst sailing 260 miles off the Somali coast. When the attack happened, the master of the ship sent out a distress call reporting that he and his crew were coming under attack by six men in a fast moving boat, armed with rocket propelled grenades. After employing avoidance tactics, the merchant vessel was able to repel the attack, the EU Navfor said.
Upon hearing the distress call, the NATO warship USS Halyburton, operating as part of NATO’s counter piracy operation – Ocean Shield, and on patrol 80 nautical miles away, launched her helicopter and was able to quickly locate a suspect boat – which was by now towing another vessel, with several men on board.
The EU Naval Force French Frigate Surcouf, operating as part of the EU’s counter piracy mission – Operation Atalanta, made best speed to the area, as a German maritime patrol aircraft kept watch overhead. Upon arrival, and in full cooperation with the NATO warship, the boarding team from Surcouf boarded the two suspect vessels and apprehended twelve men in total.
After engaging with Mauritian authorities, who hold a transfer agreement with the EU, the twelve men were on Friday transferred to Mauritius for prosecution.
Speaking about the successful transfer, the Operation Commander of the EU Naval Force, Rear Admiral Bob Tarrant said “I welcome the news that the twelve suspect pirates were today transferred to Mauritius for prosecution. Mauritius is a key partner in the fight against piracy in the region and today we sent a clear message to pirates that EU Naval Force and Mauritius are determined and committed to achieve legal prosecution for those accused of attacking ships at sea”.
Meanwhile, pirates off West Africa have released a fuel tanker after it was seized off Ivory Coast. Last week Brila Energy, the owners of the Panamanian-flagged Itri, said the hijackers escaped after releasing the vessel and its 16 Nigerian crewmembers. The crew had been locked in a dining room whilst the pirates stole the 5 000 tonnes of oil on board, which is worth $5 million.
The vessel was seized on January 16 near Abidjan’s main port.